Listening Pockets–think pita pockets with ears

listeningIn a short piece, Daniel Goleman(see Curing the Common Cold of Leadership: Poor Listening)  reminds us again of the importance of listening as a key leadership skill.  Neuroscience tells us that our brain is super proficient at mastering procedures like brushing our teeth or sending a text.  It stores these “how to” processes in the unconscious part of our brains so that we don’t have to think about them.  This works very well for habits that we don’t want to expend brain energy on.

It doesn’t work so well when we’ve developed a habit like “not listening” out of a desire for extreme efficiency in our back to back meeting worlds.  Yet we are told repeatedly that listening is the skill that leaders most fall down in and that they need to cultivate the most for success.

So, how do we begin to practice a new listening habit?  Goleman says, “The key is being mindful of those moments in your day when you have a naturally occurring opportunity to practice good listening. “  

When do you have listening pockets in your day when you can practice listening?  Here are three that come to mind:

  • When walking between meetings or between buildings.
  • During the first few minutes of a meeting, resist the temptation to check email.  Put your devices down and listen to the room and the people in it.
  • In conversation, wait, JUST WAIT, five seconds more before speaking.

Turn listening into a treasure hunt.  What are you noticing in your listening?  What is your listening telling you?

Challenge yourself to listen to your interior as well as your exterior environment.   Oh, but that’s advanced listening.  That’s listening for over achievers, which I know none of you are.  We’ll talk about that in a later post….. stay tuned!  And Happy Listening!

Revolutionary Thought: We came here to play!!

kids_playingVisualize this:  two young girls recognize each other across the playfield and run to greet each other.  One girl’s father says, “We only have thirty minutes before we need to go home for dinner.”  The girls hug each other and are filled with delight.  They talk fast and their voices lilt with giggles.  They run off to the swings and play: thirty hot minutes stretch before them into infinity.
Isn’t this what we are here for?  To delight in each other’s company and to play.
Becoming an adult often means chiseling away at play time in the name of “more serious” pursuits.  Here’s the thing.   In organizations we want to be innovative, creative, and resourceful.  We want high performance and great employee satisfaction scores.  But we have forgotten how to play!
Begin today.
Take a breath.  On your inhale allow your energy to expand up and out like the branches of a tree.  Exhale…follow your breath like a slowly circling light through you, to your center and into the earth.  Ask yourself, “What would it be like to have a little more playfulness in my being?” Notice your body’s response.

Why pictures?

75percent.cbachy75% of our meaning making comes from visual input (Roam, 2009, p.22).  By visual I mean both physical and cognitive vision like dreams and inner vision:  both the STOP sign you see while driving and the inner vision you have of your car coming to a stop.
David Sibbet’s new book (2013), Visual Leaders speaks to a visual renaissance in business and organizations.  “Leaders, more than ever need to know how to use visual tools, manage visual practitioners and their work, and understand how to help their entire organization be visually literate,” writes  Sibbet (2013, p.xiii). The increased visual quality of our technology and the ease with which we share and manipulate images, pull forward our natural visual instincts.  Digital images, video, digital drawing are becoming as common as notepads and staplers.  Information sharing is increasingly rapid, colorful, and interactive.  Our brains love the variety of visual stimulation and have an insatiable appetite for more!
While the left side of our brains thrives on sequential activities like writing, language, reading, and analysis, the right hemisphere brain3cbachycompliments our thinking with holistic reasoning, pattern identification, non verbal and emotional comprehension (Pink, p.14, 2006).   While the left hemisphere feasts on words and numbers, the right hemisphere adds the texture, flavor, and imagery.   No one way is best.  It takes two to Tango!  Words+Pictures , explains Dan Roam, make an exponential difference in comprehension, recall, reasoning, and problem solving (2009).
Remember those chunky text books in college that had no pictures?  Finding a picture in those text books was like finding a lemonade stand in the middle of the desert: something to savor in the long traverse across black and white type face.  Comprehension and retention increases dramatically when you can map out, draw out, diagram, or simply take notes on what you read or hear.
It’s really okay to use pictures.  They don’t make our meetings or our content trivial or less important.  Pictures don’t “dumb it down.”  Pictures offer more opportunities for brain neurons to fire up and release our capacity for integrated, high level thinking.
Pink, D., (2005). A whole new mind: Why right brainers will rule the future. Riverhead Books: New York.
Roam, D., (2009). Unfolding the napkin: The hands on method for solving complex problems with simple pictures. Penguin Group: New York.
Sibbet, D., (2013). Visual Leaders: New tools for visioning, management, & organization change. John Wiliey & Sons, Inc.: New Jersey.

What is your vision?

The great leader and visionary, Martin Luther King Jr., would have celebrated his 84th birthday this week.   Dr. King held the vision of equality for all.  He dreamed a world where, “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”  In some parts of the world this is possible.  It’s possible in my world, in my family, where only fifty years ago it was impossible.
Holding a vision for the world we want to create—even if we don’t live to see that world—is central to leadership.  Leaders inspire with their vision of what’s possible despite the nay-sayers.  The leaders I admire most live out their vision in their daily lives.  They embody their vision.  Their enthusiasm and deeply lived passion enrolls others in the creation of a shared vision.  We want to follow them; we want to help create what they hold out for us as attainable, possible, and filled with grace.
What about you?  How are you holding your vision?  Who is holding it with you?